On Future-Making - Undoing Predictive Algorithms

09.12. - 10.12.2021

The fundamental purpose of a large number of algorithms is to facilitate human decision-making through a calculus of risk. What governs their functioning is the preemptive logic of risk management. This logic is characteristic of late capitalist societies in which every course of action is evaluated in terms of calculated risks. In the public sector, risk assessment algorithms are deployed to “optimize” the management of “limited resources”—as in the case of the U.S. criminal justice system, which is closely tied to the prison-industrial complex. In the private sector, they are used to determine the quote for insurance policies, the attribution of credit, and the access to medical procedures. However, as Stefano Harney and Fred Moten have emphasized, the goal of neoliberal societies is not to eliminate risks per se; it is rather to modulate risks. In fact, neoliberal society’s focus on risk management consists of using risk as a motor for carefully-planned changes that submit the population—primarily the disenfranchised and racialized portion of it—to increasing contingency and flexibility. This deliberate instability renders individuals susceptible to ongoing adjustment and control.

Risk management algorithms have led to new forms of preemptive surveillance that consist of the management of in/accessibility. For instance, the borders of contested regions of the globe are drawn differently depending on the geographic position of the user on Google Maps and other online mapping tools. The preemptive temporality of surveillance is ensured through two strategies: first, by precluding access based on the geographically localized, hyper-specific ethnoracial and economic position under which an individual is categorized; and second, by making this individually specified in/accessibility invisible to the individual surveilled. The extreme specificity of in/accessibility leads to the increasing fragmentation of the world. Under these circumstances, how is it possible to create the common ground necessary for the democratic act of deciding together about a shared world?

Following the dominating consequentialist and utilitarian framework justifying the use of predictive algorithms, decision-making appears to be reducible to the computation of the means towards an end. Decision-making, however, always entails the conjunction of a certain level of calculus and the contingency of the institutive-performative moment of decision. Yet, through an aura of “enchanted determinism” (Campolo & Crawford 2020), algorithms systematically mask the contingency of the decisions that go into their creation, producing an affect of inevitability. Nonetheless, given the entanglement between humans and machines and the recursive logic of risk assessment algorithms, the decisions based on predictions induce a de facto determinism. The future escapes its programming less and less; its openness diminishes with every optimization. Yet ironically, the biggest “risk” for humankind that already constitutes the reality for millions of people—climate change—seems to escape preemptive actions, while appearing at the same time incontestable qua predictions.

If predictive algorithms are used to constrain the future by delimiting the frame of what is preemptively allowed to happen following an implicit and unquestioned norm of “the good,” isn’t it necessary to call for the abolition of the predictive framework for algorithms and ask instead how algorithms could be used to open futures rather than infinitely constrain them?

The workshop is public and will be held online. Registration is not required.
Participation link will be made available on the website beforehand.

Louise Amoore
Alex Campolo

Deanna Cachoian-Schanz

Mark B.N. Hansen
N. Katherine Hayles 
Luciana Parisi
Matteo Pasquinelli
Katia Schwerzmann

Dr. Katia Schwerzmann


Kritik der Relationen

9.02. - 11.02.2022

Im Rahmen eines Workshops unter dem Titel „Kritik der Relationen // aus medienanthropologischer Perspektive“ möchten die Kollegiat_innen des Graduiertenkollegs Medienanthropologie der Bauhaus-Universität Weimar gemeinsam mit interessierten Teilnehmer_innen aus verschiedenen Fachrichtungen und unterschiedlicher akademischer Qualifizierungsstufen eine Doppelperspektive einnehmen. Einerseits geht es um die Möglichkeit von Kritik durch relationale Denkansätze, andererseits um eine kritische Befragung desselben. Fragen, die sich aus dieser zweifachen Problematisierung ergeben, lauten demnach: Welcher Kritikbegriff ist im Kontext eines relationalen Denkens noch haltbar? Welche Ideen von Kritik werden damit affirmiert oder verabschiedet, aktualisiert oder implizit mitgeführt? Wie lässt sich Kritik aus der Immanenz heraus konzipieren, praktizieren und denken? Was sind konkrete Szenen, Akteur_innen und Aktanten, Medien und Materialitäten sowie Milieus für relationale Kritik?

Eine ausführliche Themenskizze sowie alle Informationen zum Workshop finden Sie unter


Geo-Scapes: Medializing the Earth
14.09. - 15.09. 202
Participation link: BigBlueButton

Until the first photographs of Earth were taken from space, the planet could not be perceived in its entirety by standing on its surface. In order to represent its spherical form, an act of imagination was required that, through the use of the medium of cartography, would translate the imperceptible into the visible. This simple annotation, contained in the book by the British geographer Denis Cosgrove, Apollo's Eye: A Cartographic Genealogy of the Earth in the Western Imagination, highlights the symbolic and cultural-historical value of terrestrial images, which for much of human history have represented the icon of our mythical space, the essence of our holistic existence, the document of our spatial imagination. Furthermore, it invites us to think about the importance of the Apollo space program which, although short, since its inauguration in 1961 has marked a turning point in the relationship between media, the Earth and its representations. A real “spatial revolution” – to use a term dear to the German philosopher and jurist Carl Schmitt – which, through the grafting of a mechanical eye, for the first time transferred the subject’s point of observation into a new cosmological position.

The workshop Geo-scapes: Medializing the Earth questions the effects that this “ecumenical disorientation” has had on the languages of art and politics, on the cultural techniques of visualization, and on the way space is perceived, disciplined and organized. On the one hand, representations of planet Earth as isolated in cosmic space and without political boundaries have offered imaginative support to the maturation of a modern cosmopolitanism and the birth of a new ecological and environmentalist discourse, promoting artistic practices such as the Land Art or Peter Kennard’s montages. On the other hand, these representations have also accelerated the process of the Earth’s “medialization”, as exemplified by Al Gore’s Digital Earth, Google’s mapping systems, but also by new satellite technologies and the increasingly intensive use of drones. A complex of elements whose interconnections have not yet been properly explored, but which prove to be of high public interest, considering that the image of the Earth is the sign on the basis of which all the economic, political and cultural phenomena that are commonly called global are defined.

The workshop is public and will be held online.
Host: Dr. Tommaso Morawski

Participation link: BigBlueButton

September 14, 2021

14:00 - 15:00:
Jean-Marc Besse (Paris): Is the Earth a planet? An approach through geography

15:00 - 16:00:
Teresa Castro (Paris): Seeing the Earth from Space: Between Cartographic and Ecological Reason

30 min break

16:30 - 17:30:
Lorenz Engell (Weimar): “The Earth opens her Eyes”. Günter Anders watches the Moonflight on Television

17:30 - 18:30:
Tommaso Morawski (Weimar): Geo-aesthetics: on the Earth as a medium

September 15, 2021

14:00 - 15:00:
Bernhard Siegert (Weimar): From Landscape to Geoscape: Robert Smithson's posthuman maps

15:00 - 16:00:
Mark Dorrian (Edinburgh): Ice / Time

30 min break

16:30 - 17:30:
Matteo Vegetti (Mendrisio): Geo-scapes and geo-scales. The Earth in a trans-scalar perspective

17:30 - 18:30:
Frédérique Aït-Touati (Paris): Mapping ghost landscapes: the potential cartographies of Terra Forma